The music from Ciccarelli’s youth shaped his understanding of his present thoughts and actions.
Music is one of the few things in this world that can completely change a person’s outlook. It’s like a mental corrective surgical procedure – you never leave the same way you came in.
I’ve always been kind of cynical when it came to music. I likely saw through Milli Vanilli’s act while I was still wearing Pampers, but as I got older and into my angry adolescent phase, I incorporated my skepticism about music into my life full force.
Nu-metal. The early 2000’s phenomenon that took suburban kids everywhere by storm, causing Hot Topic stores across the country to start stocking up more bondage pants and shirts with sayings that are only witty to drama club and art students in high school – clothing and accessories that I, like many, bought in abundance.
“If you’re 555,” we screamed at the family computer as a ridiculous barrage of noise blew out of the speakers. “Then I’m 666!”
Oh, the poetry known as Slipknot. I don’t know what it was about this band: maybe the masks, maybe the devilish guitar but more likely the middle-school-bummer-kid lyrics.
It all changed when punk rock came into my life. Heart-on-sleeve emotions and exposed sounds delivered fast and furiously. Over-the-top was gone, and in it’s place stood raw sincerity.
Now, at this current juncture in my music-listening career, I’m becoming obsessed with finding things that are real. Even music I loved in my past is getting tough to listen to. I can’t listen to a band like AFI in the same cathartic way I did when I was 13 because I’m not nearly the same person I was almost a decade ago.
It’s ironic when you come back to the music you grew up listening to. When I was a kid, I didn’t think that I’d be listening to Montell Jordan sing “This Is How We Do It” once I was grown. Or maybe I did.
As I get older, I’m looking to the music I listen to for authenticity. Maybe it’s the fact that everything else in the world seems so unauthentic. In a world of synthesized reality, I look for an emotional response in the purest thing I can find: art.
While many things in the current musical lexicon could be construed as bull, popular music from the past seems less put on. Would I feel the same way about Duran Duran that I do about someone popular like Ke$ha if I was experiencing it as it happens? This is the part that sticks, although there is no actual reason for it to do so. I’m analyzing this to have a better understanding of who I am.
Some people feel this way about sports – that being a fan at a particular time will define your sports identity for the rest of your life. I’m beginning to feel that way about books and the times when you find authors who are important to you.
The most extreme example of this is music. I go to concerts and meet people, and we have a shared experience. You become consumed by the message and the feelings elicited by the sounds. It helps you figure out who you are.
I recently watched Synecdoche, New York, a movie about life’s banality. Though the film focused on art, it didn’t address how art can change who a person is. The art we consume defines how we view life’s moments of weakness and ever-present normalcy.
There’s a part in Almost Famous where Jason Lee says rock-and-roll is about the “chicks, the buzz” and “the whatever.” I have just spent the last 600 words trying to define “the whatever” to you, and I will probably look for the answer to this for the rest of my life. If music didn’t get to me at such an early age, I might be punching numbers into a calculator or pushing elderly people down a hallway in wheelchairs.
The movies and phrases I’ve written about came from music. It all came from that initial spark of feeling something so real it stops you in your tracks and makes you reconsider everything you have ever known. I only hope you can be so lucky to have experienced that feeling.
Steve Ciccarelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.